Brittney Griner Details Russian Prison Conditions, from 'Huge Blood Stain' on Mattress to Spider Nests

The WNBA star was incarcerated for 10 months in 2022 after Russian authorities found vape cartridges in her luggage at the Moscow airport

Brittney Griner is looking back on the conditions that she lived in while being incarcerated for 10 months in two Russian prisons.

In a preview of the 20/20 interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts which airs Wednesday, May 1, the WNBA star recalls the “dehumanizing” environment in which she was forced to cut her trademark dreads and sleep with her feet poking through the cell bars — seemingly minor sacrifices compared to the more horrific moments she faced while behind bars.

“The mattress had a huge blood stain on it and they give you these thin two sheets so you’re basically laying on bars,” Griner, 33, told Roberts. “From the middle of my shin to my feet, [they] stuck through the bar, which in prison you don’t really want to stick your leg and arm through bars because someone could go up and grab it, break it, twist it and that was what was going through my mind.”

In addition, inmates were given one roll of toilet paper to last them one month, and Griner said she was had to use a tube of toothpaste that had expired 15 years earlier.

“We used to put it on the black mold to kill the mold on the wall,” Griner explained, trying to make light of the horror at Correctional Colony No. 1, or IK-1 as it is known.

Related: Brittney Griner Says She Felt Her Life 'Crumbling' Away When She Realized She Brought Cannabis Oil to Russia

For “two or three months,” Griner added that she and her fellow cellmates had to go without any provisions.

If not for her 28-year-old Russian cellmate Alena, Griner said she “wouldn’t have made it.”

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“Alena would literally translate everything,” Griner said, and added that other prisoners referred to the Phoenix Mercury star as “The American" or “The Basketball Player.”

Griner went on trial 134 days into her detainment and was sentenced to nine years in a labor camp. At IK-2, where she moved to, the conditions were just as grim, with “spiders above my bed making nests," she says.

“Really cold,” Griner recalled about the camp. “It’s a work camp. You go there to work. There’s no rest."

When the sub-zero temperatures froze her hair, Griner was left with no choice but to cut her locs.

Related: Brittney Griner Calls 'Coming Home' to Baylor 'Exactly 2 Years After Being Detained' a 'Full Circle Moment'

“Honestly it just had to happen,” she said. “My dreads started to freeze. They would just stay wet and cold and I was getting sick. You gotta do what you gotta do to survive."

In her upcoming memoir Coming Home, Griner details her "raw, emotional" experience in Russia, and how the global #WeAreBG movement supported her at the time.

Griner's detainment began on Feb. 17, 2022 after authorities found vape cartridges containing hash oil, arresting her on drug smuggling charges.

On Dec. 8, 2022, she was released in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout.

20/20: Prisoner of Russia airs May 1 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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